Same Old Story, With New Twists

Same Old Story, With New Twists

I like werewolf stories, even though most of them are predictable. At the end, the shy girl and the big bad alpha will be in love and whatever enemies from the dark past will be vanquished. It’s the same plot, over and over, with practically no end in sight. Yet, it’s still entertaining. In writing classes, I was told that there are less than ten plots in existence. Sometimes that fact is disheartening, but then I remember the werewolf stories. All the same plot, each one still unique in its portrayal of that plot.

The best example I can think of the exact same plot but a different story is surprisingly not a werewolf story. The first couple of books in Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle are exact copies of the original Star Wars trilogy. A boy who lives in a tyrannical empire finds a great power that would help dethrone the emperor. The empire has the uncle he’s living with killed in search of that power. He runs off with an old mentor who helps teach him. The old mentor dies trying to protect him. He finds a rebellion and is then sent to a far off, secret trainer. He leaves “too early” and ends up facing the bad guy, who defeats him and reveals his dishonorable heritage. From there, the Inheritance Cycle starts to diverge from the Star Wars plot because people were pointing out the similarities to the author.

The main differences between Eragon and Star Wars have to do with just what that “great power” is and the side characters. There is no duplicate of Han in Eragon, and the main character has a love interest that does not end up being his sister but is captured and tortured by the enemy. Where the “great power” is the death star plans in Star Wars, it’s a dragon egg in Eragon, and where Luke trains to be a Jedi, Eragon trains to be a dragon rider. For me, these differences are enough to make both enjoyable. To be honest, I didn’t even notice the similarities until someone pointed it out to me.

Paolini used archetypes to create his characters and write his stories, and it worked well for him. He got a large following from giving an old story a new spin. Of course, he added his own twists and turn to the original, like the adventures of Roran. He even made his own elven language and magic system. He created an entire dwarven culture and made it integral to the story. From him I’ve learned the wisdom behind taking something that has already gained popularity and making it your own. It’s a sound marketing strategy, though it does grate on my nerves a bit. I want what I write to be new and unheard of and brilliant, but that’s like reinventing the wheel.

The wheel works, and the werewolf plot draws in readers. There’s a reason stereotypes exist and cliches have become cliche. They appeal to a wide audience, and as a new writer, that’s what I need for maximum exposure. I need to find something old, adopt it into my imagination, refurbish it with my eccentricity, and give it new life. Once the wagon gets rolling I will introduce something new.

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